Full 2010 Volkswagen Routan Review
What's New for 2010
There are no major changes for the 2010 Volkswagen Routan.
Even before the term "minivan" was coined, Volkswagen had such a vehicle in the form of the Microbus, that lovable, slow-as-a-snail but roomy box-on-wheels favored by surfer dudes and Deadheads. After the Microbus came the Vanagon and the Eurovan, the latter of which ran through the '90s and into the early 2000s. However, after 2003 -- the Eurovan's last year -- VW had nothing to offer minivan shoppers.
The gap was finally filled last year when VW brought out the Routan. But unlike those earlier in-house vans, the Routan is not much more than a rebadged variant of the Dodge Grand Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country. Most of the VW's body panels are shared with its American cousins, though the Volkswagen features a slightly different look via the company's familiar headlight and grille design, as well as unique taillights. And though most of the interior components are likewise common among the trio, the Routan does boast a more elegant dashboard.
Chrysler's innovative Stow 'n Go and Swivel 'n Go second-row seats can't be had in the Routan, but VW makes up for that with superior second-row seat comfort. The third-row seats still fold into the floor to ease loading of larger cargo. Mechanically, there are only minimal changes. The engines and transmissions are all the same, though VW tuned the suspension to provide more refined handling and ride qualities.
There are enough changes on the reasonably priced 2010 VW Routan to make it the best of the three. But that's like saying "Revenge of the Sith" is the best of the "Star Wars" movie prequels. Chrysler's myriad quality issues with its latest minivans don't bode well for the Routan, and even putting that attribute aside, this is not a segment-leading minivan to begin with. It's a competent people mover with a hint of European flair, but rival models like the Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona and Toyota Sienna will serve the typical minivan buyer better.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Volkswagen Routan seven-passenger minivan is available in four main trim levels: S, SE, SEL and SEL Premium.
Base S models come standard with 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, tri-zone air-conditioning, cruise control and keyless entry. Every S also features heated side mirrors, a six-speaker CD/MP3 audio system with an auxiliary input jack, a removable second-row bench seat and a 60/40-split third-row bench that folds into the floor.
The SE adds 17-inch alloy wheels, power-sliding rear doors, upgraded V-tex upholstery, heated front seats and tri-zone manual climate control. This trim's standard features list also includes power-adjustable pedals, an eight-way power driver seat, removable second-row captain's chairs, rear sunshades, Bluetooth and an upgraded audio system with a six-CD changer.
VW actually has a few extra variants of the SE and SEL trim levels. The SE with RSE (rear seat entertainment) adds a rear-seat entertainment system as well as a power liftgate and satellite radio. The SE with RSE and Navigation adds -- you guessed it -- a hard-drive-based navigation system with digital music storage capability and a back-up camera.
The SEL comes standard with the navigation system, power liftgate and satellite radio. You also get a larger engine, a towing preparation package (with a load-leveling rear suspension), foglights, remote engine start, a sunroof, leather upholstery, a power-folding third-row seat and heated seats for the first and second rows. The SEL can also be equipped with the rear-seat entertainment system (it also includes an extra display screen). The top-of-the-line SEL Premium includes all that plus xenon headlights, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, a nine-speaker premium audio system, an eight-way power passenger seat, driver-seat memory functions, a 115-volt AC power outlet and rear park assist.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Volkswagen Routan S and SE models come with a 3.8-liter V6 that produces 197 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque. The SEL and SEL Premium are outfitted with a more sophisticated 4.0-liter V6 rated at 253 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Both engines come with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Surprisingly, the smaller 3.8-liter engine has an EPA fuel economy estimate of just 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined, while the 4.0-liter V6 yields a respectable 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. The latter also provides superior acceleration from zero to 60 mph -- 8.9 seconds, according to VW's estimates, versus 10.2 for the 3.8-liter mill.
The 2010 Volkswagen Routan comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control and full-length side curtain airbags. In government crash tests, the Routan scored a perfect five stars in all frontal and side-impact categories. Likewise, in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Routan scored the best possible rating of "Good" in frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
VW spruced up the Routan's Dodge-sourced interior with a revised dash layout, including a modified center stack and Volkswagen's trademark red-and-blue backlighting. However, anyone who has spent time in the Town & Country or Grand Caravan will instantly recognize the cheap-feeling switchgear, dash-mounted shifter and basic overall design as straight outta Motown.
The Routan lacks Dodge's innovative Stow 'n Go and Swivel 'n Go second-row seats, but at least its conventional seats are firm and ideally shaped for proper support. The third-row bench folds flat into the floor, while the second-row bench or captain's chairs can be removed for serious hauling duty. VW claims the Routan can carry up to 144 cubic feet of cargo -- that's about average for a minivan, which is to say, it's gigantic.
Volkswagen says the Routan evinces "European ride and handling characteristics." Thing is, Europeans tend to drive vehicles that are half the Routan's size. For such a large conveyance, the Routan acquits itself fairly well on twisty roads; it also swallows most bumps and ruts without complaint. However, its driving dynamics still remain a step or two behind the segment-leading Honda Odyssey's. The interior remains quiet at highway speeds, and the 4.0-liter V6 makes the 2010 VW Routan one of the fleeter minivans around, if you care about that sort of thing. The hoary 3.8-liter V6 is sluggish and thirsty, but you're stuck with it unless you ante up for the SEL.